I’ve not closed doors for domestic matches: Mithali Raj

Former India women’s cricket captain Mithali Raj opens up about the recent Bollywood biopic on her, decision to retire from international cricket and more
I’ve not closed doors for domestic matches: Mithali Raj

KOCHI: Former cricketer Mithali Raj has been grabbing headlines for a year now. First, for her biopic starring Bollywood actor Tapsee Pannu, and second, about her retirement. But within months of retiring from all formats of international cricket, the former Indian women’s cricket captain is dabbling in other interests. This includes investing in the Bengaluru-based ed-tech platform Masai School which offers skill improvement programmes to young graduates.

Speaking about biopics, despite Shabaash Mithu being received positively by critics, the film failed to meet financial expectations. “In our country, biopics haven’t really been hits, maybe because the viewers aren’t ready for such stories. Also, the movie was released in July ’22 at a time when people were still hesitant to go to theatres due to the pandemic. So clearly that had a massive impact on how the movie fared,” she explains, adding that most people ignore the fact that it was among the most-watched title on Netflix for weeks.

What does she have to say about Pannu’s portrayal of her on-screen? “She did a fine job. It was very difficult for her to learn because it wasn’t just learning to bat, rather she had to learn my style. I wasn’t involved in the process much due to my busy schedule, but she did wonderfully, given the huge expectations. Many have told me that they felt like they were watching me on screen,” she shares. Mithali feels the sport has evolved considerably since her debut two decades ago. “Women’s cricket has graduated from having an independent body to now being under the BCCI. Players now earn an equal match fee compared to their male counterparts. There are more international events as well,” she explains.

The 39-year-old feels she left the sport at a much better place than when she first found it. “The women’s IPL and the Under-19 World Cup will help expand the pool of players that we have now. I envision a future where we have a strong bench strength equal to the national side. IPL will definitely strengthen the sport at the grassroots level. Parents will allow girls to take up the sport professionally because now it isfinancially sustainable,” she says.

While she admits to having been at the receiving end of gender biases, she says the experience of being in the sport for such a long time is something else. “Sometimes you can’t put into words the emotions you feel when you represent your country at the highest level, and consistently for a long time. It’s been an honour to lead India in the World Cups. Nothing comes close to that.”

Ahead of the much anticipated inaugural edition of Women’s IPL next year, Mithali hints at a return to domestic cricket with the series possibly on the cards. “I’m not coming back into international cricket for sure. But I’ve not closed the doors for domestic matches, we’ll have to wait and see,” she says.

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The New Indian Express